Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The Importance of Being Well Hydrated

Most people are chronically dehydrated. In the USA its thought to be as high as 75% of the population and there is no reason to think that the figure would be any less for the UK. In my practice I would say the figure is more like 95%.  And the effects of dehydration on your overall health are devastating, way more far reaching that you probably think.

And This is Not Just My Opinion

In October 2004 a joint symposium between the Royal Institute for Public Health and Water UK explored the links between water and health.  Water UK Chief Executive Pamela Taylor outlined the challenges that are beginning to be understood by policy makers and health professionals in ensuring adequate hydration across our society:

"Certainly we recognise that there is a minimum level of water intake required for human need.  Indeed, for much of the developing world there is still a great deal to be done to provide reliable access to water to meet this basic need.  However, there is growing evidence that water has stronger links to health than we have previously understood - that adequate hydration has an important role to play in preventing illness.  If this is so, it begs the question 'How much?', what is the daily requirement to ensure good health?  Today the answer might be: 'A lot more than most people drink at present'."

So the message is getting through to the main stream but when did your doctor last ask you how much water your drink?

Why is Water So Important to Youth, Health and Vitality?

Water is one of the six basic nutrients along with complex carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, proteins and minerals.  Water should really be called the first nutrient since the body's important chemical reactions - such as the production of energy - take place in water.  Its most familiar roles are:

  • Transporting nutrients, oxygen and other substances around the body
  • Facilitating the removal of waste products via urine and sweat
  • Controlling body temperature via sweat production
  • Acting as a lubricant around joints and eyes
  • Promoting digestion through the production of saliva and other digestive juices
  • Maintaining skin health and hydration (dehydrated skin ages quickly)
When the body is not adequately hydrated, it responds by conserving its stocks and switching on the body's survival mechanisms.  Effectively it hangs onto the water that should be eliminated and your body becomes a dirty, stagnant puddle.  The thirst mechanism in most people is so weak that by the time they feel thirsty its actually one of the body's alarms going off to force you to give it what it needs immediately.

Dehydration and Serious Illness

According to independent researcher Hilary Forrester, the impact of longer term dehydration is now being connected to severe, life threatening conditions such as cancer and coronary heart disease.  With adequate hydration, breast cancer risk is believed to be reduced by 79% in post-menopausal women and 33% in pre-menopausal women; colon cancer  is reduced by 45% in women and 32% in men.  Bladder, kidney, prostate and testicular cancer have also been associated with inadequate fluid intake.

Conditions such as gallstones, kidney stones, urinary tract infections and bedsores have all been linked to dehydration. 

Dehydration Makes You Fat

Findings also suggest that dehydration may contribute to obesity  because it creates cravings for a diet that is high in fat, which produces a good source of metabolic water.

In addition, as I have already mentioned, most people's thirst mechanism is so weak it is often mistaken for hunger.  One glass of water shut down midnight hunger pangs in almost 100% of dieters studied by the University of Washington.

Dehydration also slows metabolism and impairs digestion which in turns leads to malabsorbtion of nutrients which in turn pushes people to eat more in the hope they will provide their body with what it needs: nutrients.

Dehydration and the Elderly

How many older people do you know who drink any water at all?  Fear of incontinence is often a factor and leads to the restriction of fluid intake.  But the restriction only makes the problem worse.

A study conducted by the National Health Service established that when old people are admitted following falls they are always constipated.  And constipation is a clear indication of severe dehydration.  They don't fall be because they are old and frail, they fall because they are dehydrated which causes them to experience dizziness.

Dehydration also impairs the cognitive abilities of the elderly making them appear confused and impairing memory.  My mother was diagnosed as being in the early stages of dementia however her confusion was always completely eliminated very quickly (less than half an hour) by getting her to drink a glass of water.  She probably didn't have dementia she was just chronically dehydrated.

So Being Dehydrated Will

  • Reduce your mental and physical peformance by up to 25%
  • Impair digestion
  • Age your skin prematurely
  • Increase the likelihood of back and joint pain (8-10 glasses of water per day was found to ease the back and joint pain for 80% of sufferers)
  • Disrupt bowel function
  • Increase the likelihood of you developing serious, life threatening conditions
  • Raise your blood pressure
  • Make you tired and lethargic (dehydration is the number one cause of that mid-afternoon energy slump)
  • Make you fat and it much harder to lose weight
  • Rob you of youth, health and vitality
I could list way more downsides to dehydration but I think you get the picture.  The single most important thing you can do for your health is to get well hydrated.

Alternative versus The Traditional Approach

Alternative, complementary and naturopathic practitioners have long understood the importance of good hydration but it seems to have escaped the mainstream medical practitioner for some reason.  In Japan, the country who's citizens have the best health worldwide, hospitals treat patients with water before resorting to pharmaceuticals.  Their water of choice is Kangen Water but I will address this topic a little further on.

What Not to Drink

Before I address the issue of how much you need to drink lets first take a look at what not to drink and why.

Fruit Juice

Fruit juice is food and will not significantly add to your hydration status.  It has to be digested before it can be assimilated and uses up water in that process.  In addition, its simple sugars will increase the likelihood of you developing diabetes (and that's the case even if you juice your own).  Drink a small amount of fruit juice if you must but don't count it as part of your daily hydration requirements.

Fizzy Water

Fizzy water contributes significantly to bloating and excess gas, in fact in many cases it is the sole cause.  It also exerts pressure on your oesophageal sphincter (the muscle that keeps the contents of your stomach in its place) which over time can fail and allow the highly acidic contents of your stomach to enter your oesophagus causing reflux and in the long term can lead to Barrat's Oesophagus which is a pre-cancerous condition.

Coke, Diet Coke and Other "Pop"

Not a drink but then not a food either.  These drinks also allow acid from your stomach to leak out, increase the acidity of your body alarmingly, cause bloating and gas, impair digestion and are anti-nutrients (which means they don't give your body any nutrition but they take nutrients to be processed and eliminated by your body).  If you are already poorly nourished they will speed up the onset of malnutrition.  As caffeine is an ingredient of Coke, Red Bull and other popular drinks have a look at the link under the next heading.  In my local supermarket I regularly see young children buying these drinks at breakfast time.  I don't think they should be drinking them at any time.

Tea and Coffee

Again tea and coffee should be regarded as food not drink.  There are different opinions but generally they add little to your hydration status, make you think you have had a drink so prevent you from drinking the water you need and result in very concentrated urine (if they are the only thing you drink) which is very bad for your kidneys.  If you drink too much they can keep your body in a permanent state of stress which is devastating for your overall health. 

In 1948 a erman pharmacologist conducted tests on the effects of various drugs on the ability of spiders to spin webs.  In 1995 NASA repeated the tests.  They then photographed the webs the spiders created after having the drugs.  Take a look on Wikipaedia  The very worst web was created by the spider that had the caffeine.


Now I'm not suggesting that you don't drink any alcohol at all but alcohol dehydrates. Its why you get a banging headache and feel fuzzy the day after drinking too much.  The best cure for a hangover is to get hydrated.  Having a beer when you are thirsty is not giving your body what it needs.  If you are thirsty have a glass of water first then have your beer.


Again a food not a drink.  And its meant for calves, lambs and kids not adult human beings.

To Be Continued

In my next post I will explain how much you need to drink, the advantages of various kinds of water (they are not all equal), the importance of healthy oils in facilitating hydration and what to expect when you first start to drink enough.

Getting well hydrated is the first step to restoring and maintaining your youth, health and vitality.

With love


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